Where there Is a (collective) will, there are (effective) ways: Integrating individual- and group-level factors in explaining humanitarian collective action

Emma F Thomas, Craig McGarty, Gerhard Reese, Mariette Berndsen, Ana Maria Bliuc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The 21st century has borne witness to catastrophic natural and human-induced tragedies. These disasters necessitate humanitarian responses; however, the individual and collective bases of support are not well understood. Drawing on Duncan’s motivational model of collective action, we focus on how individual differences position a person to adopt group memberships and develop a “group consciousness” that provides the basis for humanitarian action. Longitudinal mediation analyses involving supporters of international humanitarian action (N = 384) sampled annually for 3 years provided support for the hypothesized model, with some twists. The results revealed that within time point, a set of individual differences (together, the “pro-social orientation”) promoted a humanitarian group consciousness that, in turn, facilitated collective action. However, longitudinally, there was evidence that a more general pro-social orientation undermined subsequent identification with, and engagement in, the humanitarian cause. Results are discussed in terms of understanding the interplay between individual and group in collective actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1678-1692
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • collective action
  • generosity
  • human rights
  • humanitarian action
  • personal political salience
  • social identification
  • values

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